Apache Software Foundation Is Worth $20 Billion
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 16 August 2019

Yes, Apache is worth $20 billion by its own valuation of the software it offers for free. But what price can you realistically put on open source code?

If you only know the name Apache in connection with the web server then you are missing out on some interesting software. The Apache Software Foundation ASF, grew out of the Apache HTTP Server project in 1999 with the aim of furthering open source software. It provides a licence, the Apache licence, a decentralized governance and requires projects to be licensed to the ASF so that it can protect the intellectual property rights.

Why is it called Apache?

The official answer is:

"The name 'Apache' was chosen from respect for the various Native American nations collectively referred to as Apache, well-known for their superior skills in warfare strategy and their inexhaustible endurance."

But legend has it that the origin of the name was because the early versions of the web server were created by extensive patching of the NCSA HTTPd web server - hence "a patchy web server", and this is the explanation I believe.


The Apache Software Foundation has published its 2019 fiscal year report highlighting its successes, in this 20th anniversary year, and this is where you will find the statement:

"$20B+ worth of Apache Open Source software products are made available to the public-at-large at 100% no cost, and benefit billions of users around the world."

What are we to make of this staggering evaluation? Perhaps the 730 individual ASF Members and 7,000 Apache code committers would like their, roughly, $3 million share each? I'm not seriously suggesting that this is the case, but you can see the can of worms putting a headline price on open source software could open.

The evaluation was made using the COMOMO II model which takes into account a range of metrics, size, complexity, reliability etc. and estimates the cost of creating the software. There is considerable scope for adjusting the estimate based on values assigned to the parameters so I don't think we can say that $20 billion is in any way accurate or objective. It is also an estimate of the cost to create and not of the commercial value of the code.

If you want to be even more impressed, and perhaps a little confused, take a look at this self promotional, celebratory, video:

The reason it might be confusing is that the ASF looking so much like a commercial enterprise that might even top some of its sponsors is a bit strange and cuts right to the heart of the current state of open source.

From the President's report:

"This year has oddly seen more confusion and ambiguity around what constitutes Open Source 20 years after its formal definition. Some in the tech industry are trying to exploit the goodwill earned by the larger Open Source community."

This is likely a reference to the attempts by some to stop their free software being exploited by including the Commons-clause which basically stops a user from profiting from open source. While most open source organizations regard any software that includes the Commons-clause as non-free, you can see why it is attractive. If you are an open source contributor and you see a big company reselling your software, barely modified as a cloud service, say, then resentment is the likely result. The ASF pointing out the value of its largely volunteer-generated code based and acting like one of those big companies is in bad taste to say the least.

On a more positive note, I do generally think that the ASF is a good thing:

"The ASF develops, incubates, and shepherds 300+ freely-available, enterprise-grade projects that serve as the backbone for some of the most visible and widely used applications. The ubiquity of Apache software is undeniable, with Apache projects managing zettabytes of data, executing teraflops of operations, and storing billions of objects in virtually every industry. Apache software is an integral part of nearly every end user computing device, from laptops to tablets to phones"

 Happy 20th Anniversary ASF, may there be many more.



More Information

The Apache Software Foundation Announces Annual Report for 2019 Fiscal Year

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FSF Update Rules Commons Clause Non-Free

The Commons Clause - For Good or Bad

Apache Migrates To GitHub

Apache quits JCP as a protest against Oracle

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Last Updated ( Friday, 16 August 2019 )